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J Neuroendocrinol. 1997 Oct;9(10):729-33.

Corticosteroid effects on gene expression of myelin basic protein in oligodendrocytes and of glial fibrillary acidic protein in type 1 astrocytes.

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Department of Endocrinology, University of Milan, Italy.


The paper describes the effects of corticosterone and deoxycorticosterone (DOC), used in their native or in their 5 alpha-reduced molecular forms (dihydrocorticosterone, DHC; dihydrodeoxycorticosterone, DHDOC; and tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone, THDOC) on the gene expression of the myelin basic protein (MBP) and of the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in pure cultures, respectively, of oligodendrocytes and type 1 astrocytes obtained from the neonatal rat brain. Among the different steroids tested (corticosterone, DHC, DOC, DHDOC and THDOC), only DHDOC was effective on the gene expression of MBP in the oligodendrocyte cultures; the mRNA levels of this typical oligodendrocyte marker were decreased following exposure to this steroid for 24 h. In the case of the astrocytic marker GFAP, its gene expression was increased by the exposure to corticosterone for 6 and 24 h, while DHC was ineffective; the mineralocorticoid DOC was also ineffective, while its 5 alpha-reduced derivative, DHDOC, strongly inhibited GFAP gene expression, starting at 6 h after beginning of the treatment. In conclusion, the present data show that: (1) adrenal steroids possessing gluco- and mineralocorticoid activities may influence the gene expression of the astrocytic marker GFAP; (2) the 5 alpha-reduced metabolite of DOC, DHDOC is able to influence the gene expression not only of GFAP but also that of MBP, which are, respectively, typical markers of the astrocytes and the oligodendrocytes; (3) the metabolic conversion of hormonal steroids into their 5 alpha-reduced metabolites, which also occurs in the glia, could be implicated in the biochemical control of oligodendrocyte and astrocyte functions.

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